Monday, September 24, 2012

Stories of Struggle, Stories of Hope: Art, Politics, and Human Rights

A topic that is not often discussed at the Alaska World Affairs Council’s typical events is that of our common humanity. What, though, is more worldly and more related to our international relationships than that which unites us? In his TED Talk (which can be viewed below), Chris Abani discusses what makes up our humanity, and how the people he has known in his life have taught him the importance of the human relationship.


Chris Abani is a Nigerian poet and novelist. As a young man, Abani wrote a spy novel about a foiled coup that incidentally mirrored a real-life attempted coup against the Nigerian government. Accused of laying out the blueprint for the attempted coup, Abani was imprisoned in Nigeria at the age of 18. Although he was released, he was later arrested and tortured twice more. Abani directs his experiences into his writing, resulting in “searing poetry” and poignant novels, all the while maintaining an optimistic view on life.

During his lecture on October 5th, which is sponsored by UAA Student Activities, Chris Abani will be discussing human stories of struggle and hope, and how art, politics, and human rights intertwine. The lecture will be held on at 7:30 p.m. in the UAA Student Union Den. Admission is free for all, and there is no need to RSVP.

For more information, visit the event’s facebook page.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Is the End of Poverty in Sight?

On September 21st, Dr. John Hatch discussed FINCA,  the organization he founded, and the use of microfinance as a tool to end poverty. Dr. Hatch was optimistic, despite the great challenges that we face; although his talk was entitled “Ending Poverty by 2040,” Dr. Hatch strongly believes that the deadline is actually quite generous, and that at the rate that microfinance is growing, poverty could be ended as soon as 10 or 15 years from now. Currently, microfinance helps 160 million families, which translates to about 800 million individuals, and this number is growing by about 10% per year. As Dr. Hatch put it, microfinance is “too big to fail, and it’s run by the people themselves.”

During his talk, Dr. Hatch also emphasized the importance of the bottom-up (versus top-down) approach. When an initiative is created from the bottom up, it involves individuals and creates a greater sense of ownership and accountability. Consequently, many groups become self-sufficient and no longer rely on grants to continue their work. The sustainability and potential longevity of these programs means that they can have more long-lasting effects on individual clients.

For more information about our future events, visit our website at If you missed Dr. Hatch’s lecture, a podcast version should be available on the KSKA website shortly.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The End of Poverty by 2040

Village Banking Group Africa
Photograph from

Dr. John Hatch has a PhD in Economic Development and is the founder of FINCA  (the Foundation for International Community Assistance), a micro-finance organization that uses village banking as its model. Dr. Hatch is credited with creating the village banking model, which has served as a example for micro-finance organizations all over the world. He also served as FINCA's president and director of research during his 22 years with the organization.

Below is an excerpt from FINCA’s website ( explaining the village banking model, which is unique because it promotes individual empowerment and encourages financial responsibility by emphasizing community relationships.

“The Village Banking method is the form of microlending that FINCA pioneered. It is economic democracy in action. A Village Banking group is a support group of 10-50 members—usually mothers—who meet weekly or biweekly to provide themselves with three essential services:
  • small self-employment loans-–as small as $50 or $100--to start or expand their own businesses
  • an incentive to save, and a means of accumulating savings
  • a community-based system that provides mutual support and encourages personal empowerment.
Village Banking group members guarantee each others’ loans and run a democratic organization. The group guarantee is important, since borrowers don’t have the kind of collateral a commercial bank would be seeking to lend them money. Groups represent grassroots democracy in action; members elect their own leaders, design their own bylaws, keep the books, manage the funds, and are fully responsible for loan supervision, including enforcing penalties for non-compliance.”

Dr. Hatch will be addressing how the village banking model and micro-finance in general can be used as a means to end poverty around the world. With his expertise and lifetime of experience, it is sure to be an enlightening luncheon.

For a full biography of Dr. John Hatch, please visit our website.

Dr. Hatch will be speaking on Friday, September 21st, from noon to 1p.m. If you are interested in attending, we strongly suggest that you RSVP to us by Wednesday, September 19th. Admission is $23 for members, $26 for non-members if paid in advance, and $26 for members, $30 for non-members if paid at the door.
To pay in advance, click here. If you would like to pay at the door, you can RSVP by sending us an email ( or giving us a call (907-276-8038). 

The session will be moderated by Eric McCullum, an Alaskan businessman.